Airline Seats, Upgrading for Your Comfort

While the planes take off from the runway this sunmer, passengers inside may feel more comfortable than they remember. The seats seem wider, there appears to be more leg room, and wait -- the backs can fully recline?

It's not a dream. Dozens of airlines are trading in old-model seats for newer, more tech-savvy seatin arrangements.

CBS News Travel Editor, Peter Greenberg joined on "The Early Show" Tuesday morning to give us an overview of what we can expect when flying this summer.

Greenberg brought seats from four different airlines, American Airlines, Delta, Continental, and Air New Zealand, to the Early Show Plaza. The seats from a fifth carrier, Singapore Airlines, were so large we couldn't get them to fit on the plaza!

If you are flying American Airlines this summer, notice the power strips with regular outlets at every first class seat. There will be a 110-volt power port for every first class seat, and if you're flying economy, there will be a power port every three seats for easy accessibility.

Now, passengers will no longer have to carry DC adapters. Personal appliances, such as laptops, iPods, and cell phones, can be fully charged by the time you land.

Wi-Fi will also become a standard feature. All new Boeing 737-800 plane models are equipped with Gogo Inflight internet service. As existing 737-800s are retrofitted, they will be equipped with Gogo.

But electronics aren't the only new features of American Airline seats. The bottom cushion has been redesigned to create a cradle motion, better at distributing weight and increasing the recline angle for more space. This seat also protects the personal space of passengers sitting in the next row.

Even the planes meet stiffer environmental standards. The new generation of Boeing 737-800 (delivered in 2011 and 2012) burn 35 percent less fuel on a seat-mile basis compared to its MD-80 predecessor.

Delta Air Lines has given its seats a bit of a facelift as well. The new seats are lighter, thinner, and recline a little differently than before. With the push of a button, the bottom of the seat will move forward while the back slides down.

Greenberg explains that it is the same reclining motion you're used to, just without stressingt your knees or angering the person behind you. Based on this new "slimline" design, all passengers gain an inch and a half of personal space and room, particularly at the knees.

Delta seats will also offer a fully integrating entertainment monitor in the seat back. The in-seat video is now lighter, brighter, and in high definition. Greenberg explains that these monitors offer a viewing experience that is of significantly higher quality than most monitors on economy cabins today.

These screens use 30 percent less energy and are 60 percent lighter than those on existing Delta aircrafts.

Delta Boeing 747-400 aircrafts will be set to fly by mid 2011, and by the middle of 2012, the entire fleet of 747s will feature the new upgrades.
These seats are economy-class international, and average $1,000 to $1,500, round trip. The seats will first be used on the 747-400 fleet flying exclusively to and from Asia.

Continental Airlines is offering a first-class experience at a business-class price.

Business-class seats are now flat-bed seats, allowing travelers to fully recline 180 degrees, providing six feet of sleeping space when fully extended. Greenberg says that this is one of the widest business class seats in the air.

It also features a "tower of power," conveniently placed connections for laptop power, headset, and USB plugs. It also offers iPod connectivity, allowing each traveler to view his personal videos and enjoy his music while his iPod continues charging.

Air New Zealand's seats are now called "Skycouches."
It is a specially designed row of three seats which has been engineered to create a lie-flat, flexible space, all the way to the seat back in front. This provides children a place to play, or a flat surface for adults to relax and sleep.

The airline is calling this the "cuddle class" of service. There will be 22 Skycouches available on the aircrafts, making up the first 11 rows in the Economy Class cabin. Air New Zealand announced these seats in January. By November, the Skycouch will be in full service, flying from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand.

Singapore Airlines has a deluxe suite, known as the "Singapore Suite," more lavish, and more exclusive than first class on the A380 aircraft.

The A380 is the world's largest passenger plane, launched nearly three years ago. These aircrafts contain 12 suites, and each suite is essentially a private cabin in the sky (resembling a Pullman Sleeping Car.)

These suites operate on flights between Singapore, Sydney, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Zurich, Paris, and Melbourne. The seat alone is three feet wide, not including armrests. It is also fully adjustable to allow for a full range of seating, and lounging positions. The bed is designed separately and does not convert from the seat itself. The suite offers separate sitting and sleeping surfaces, allowing passengers to sit and lounge in bed.

For couples traveling together, the beds in the middle two seats can be converted into a double bed. Singapore Air says this is "the world's first true double bed in the sky."

The suite also offers gourmet dining while travelers get their pick from Don Perignon or Krug champagne. It also offers a 23-inch monitor on the entertainment system, including noise cancelling head phones, and a selection of more than 700 music CDs and 120 movies.

Available ticket price from Singapore to London is $15,000 round-trip.

  • CBSNews

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.